Alan Crosby

Looks at a web­site that de­tails those caught up in 18th-cen­tury religious per­se­cu­tion

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - YOUR PROJECTS -

Like any fam­ily or lo­cal his­to­rian, I al­ways look out for new re­sources, es­pe­cially ones that can be found on­line. I de­clare a vested in­ter­est in what fol­lows – I’m on the Coun­cil of the Record So­ci­ety of Lan­cashire and Cheshire and we’ve re­cently placed a data­base with hun­dreds of names of peo­ple from the North West (and es­pe­cially Cheshire) on our web­site, as part of our com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 300th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Pre­ston.

Lo­cal and fam­ily his­to­ri­ans can search for an­ces­tors who were forced to prove that they were not Ro­man Catholics, af­ter the Ja­co­bite sup­port­ers of the Old Pre­tender were crushed by govern­ment forces on 14-15 Novem­ber 1715.

The names were taken from doc­u­ments called Sacra­ment Cer­tifi­cates, which were needed to prove that any­one in a po­si­tion of au­thor­ity (such as cler­gy­men or tax col­lec­tors) was a prac­tis­ing mem­ber of the Church of Eng­land. The Test Act of 1672 and sub­se­quent laws tried to pre­vent non­con­formists and Ro­man Catholics from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice. “Per­sons who bear any of­fices or places of trust”, un­der the Crown had to re­ceive com­mu­nion ac­cord­ing to the rites of the Church of Eng­land. To prove that he had done so, each com­mu­ni­cant had to re­turn a cer­tifi­cate, signed by the of­fi­ci­at­ing min­is­ter, one or more church­war­dens of the parish, and two wit­nesses. They there­fore in­clude the names of many or­di­nary mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

In Cheshire, the cer­tifi­cate might be re­turned to one of three ma­jor courts: the ‘Ex­che­quer of Ch­ester’, the Ch­ester City quar­ter ses­sions, or the county quar­ter ses­sions. Those for the Ex­che­quer are held in The Na­tional Ar­chives, while the cer­tifi­cates for the city and county quar­ter ses­sions are at Cheshire Ar­chives and Lo­cal Stud­ies.

Each se­ries be­gins in 1673. There were no re­stric­tions on where some­one had to take com­mu­nion, so Cheshire men could be found among the records of other coun­ties. One cer­tifi­cate, for ex­am­ple, re­lates to a man from Bet­ley, Stafford­shire, who was tak­ing com­mu­nion at Wis­tas­ton in Cheshire. in the said County, Shoe­maker, doe sev­er­ally make oath that they know the above named Thomas Pow­drell now present here in Court and that they saw the said Thomas Pow­drell re­ceive the Sacra­ment of the Lords Sup­per at the day time and place above in that be­halfe cer­ti­fied and that they saw the said Joseph Allen Peter Jack­son and Ralph Ridg­way sub­scribe the above writ­ten cer­tifi­cate and that all other mat­ters and things therein men­cioned and Ex­pressed are true as they ver­ily be­lieve.”

Sacra­ment Cer­tifi­cates are widely avail­able among the quar­ter ses­sions records of county record of­fices around the coun­try. Any­one within 30 miles of Lon­don could re­turn their cer­tifi­cate to a cen­tral court (King’s Bench or Chancery, the Ex­che­quer and the Court of Com­mon Pleas) but Lon­don-based com­mu­ni­cants could also re­turn cer­tifi­cates to the quar­ter ses­sions and there are large num­bers of records at Lon­don Metropoli­tan Ar­chives.

If you’ve not come across them be­fore, they would be well worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing. Maybe your so­ci­ety could con­sider de­vel­op­ing a sim­i­lar pro­ject of its own?

Lo­cal and fam­ily his­to­ri­ans can search for an­ces­tors who were forced to prove they were not Ro­man Catholics

Main photo: The home­page of the Record So­ci­ety of Lan­cashire and Cheshire web­site; In­set: An ex­am­ple of a Sacra­ment Cer­tifi­cate

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